“We shouldn’t require our politicians to be movie stars. Then again, we’re all influenced by charisma. It’s hard not to be. We all collectively fall for it.” – Julianne Moore
The ability to be “likable” has been a long-sought after personal trait. Long before we could remember, we’ve learned that being likable gets us rewarded.
We learned that we’d get treats from our parents and adults when we made them smile, and were sent to our room if we upset others.
We learned that being part of a group meant support and affirmation, and being alone (probably) meant that there was “something wrong” with us – we were probably infected with the plague but we didn’t know – that’s why everybody shunned us.
In essence, being likable meant that we would get something we wanted – sometimes way faster and easier.
It was reward, it felt good… and it helps us get ahead
So, here thirteen ways to help you do just that:
1. Forget about Hogging Attention
People love it when they feel cared for and important. That’s why so many of us are programmed to ‘want’ attention.
The irony is that the more you try to hog attention for yourself, the more off-putting you become.
Conversely, you become more likable as you give people the time, space and attention to share who they are and what’s important to them.
Think back to a time when you’ve had some of the best conversations with some of the most remarkable and charming people in your life – weren’t they the ones who gave you the space and time to speak your mind, talk about your day and how you felt? Weren’t they also the ones who picked up on what you said and related back to it? I’m guessing that you were probably the one who did most of the talking, and they did most of the listening.
Being likable doesn’t really require lots of work, really. Sometimes, it’s as easy as reversing the role of the speaker and listener.
2. Forget about Pleasing Everybody
“I’ve learned that it’s not our job to make other people happy” – Steve Harvey, American Comedian and
Truly likable people are comfortable with who they are. They are relaxed and comfortable in their own skin, their strengths and weaknesses.
They recognize that no matter how hard they try, they will never be perfect, and they’re comfortable being vulnerable and being real.
Brene Brown, a psychologist and researcher who studied and wrote extensively on the topic of being vulnerable and authenticity, shares that learning about and being able to accept our vulnerabilities actually helps strengthen our personal identities, but also the way we relate and connect with people.
Whilst being “real” may not help you win everybody over, it will certainly help you win over the people who matter – and I, and I believe like many others, have learned through experience that being authentic and sincere is a big draw when it comes to likability as a person.
3. Forget about Where You ‘Should’ Be At and Focus on Where You Are At
The Dalai Lama once shared that people have a tendency to think about work, when they are at pleasure, and think about pleasure when they are at work.
The result is that the person finds neither satisfaction nor happiness when they are at work or at play.
Our inability to be present affects our internal balance, without which we are unable to experience peace of mind and joy.
Being constantly distracted also affects our ability to pay due attention to the people we are with, and prevents you from fully and freely expressing who you are.
Being present – being in the moment – provides you with an immense advantage when it comes to connecting and relating to people, and we will do well not to squander that opportunity.
4. Forget about How Much Money You’ve Got
The worth and dignity of a person transcends beyond the the amount of money they have in their wallet.
Yet, there are people in the world who appear to measure the worth of a person by the amount of money they have.
If you’ve seen this social experiment, you’d probably agree on who the dirt bags are – and there’s a fair chance they’re not very likeable with the average person either.
The irony of the matter is that to those who judge others based on how much money they have, they too will be judged by others (and themselves even) when they come across a richer person like them.
Truly likable people do not measure the worth of a person based on money – they relate to the common man or woman and see money as a tool to get things done.
Manny Pacquiao, anybody?
5. Forget About Hoarding . . .
Don’t get me wrong. Money and food are important. So are friends, family, people, moments, memories and emotions.
Some things come with a price. Others are priceless.
After fighting the best part of a decade crafting my career since my days in college, I’ve found the last four months of my life to be the most rewarding and hugely invigorating.
That’s not because I’ve finally achieved financial freedom. Far from it.
Rather, I’ve learned to invest some of my best resources by giving it all away to the people who matter.
That means, as a career speaker, sharing with a group of people, investing more time to catch up with old friends and even investing time and money to hang out with family.
While I was pleasantly surprised by how rewarding it was to actually spend more time giving away, I wasn’t surprised when I realized the effect that had on me and the people around me – I was happy, and I was able to bring that emotion to the people around me.
Moral of the story: There’s a higher chance that people like hanging around real, happy people. Don’t you?
6. Forget About Listening to Reply; Listen to Relate
“Nobody cares about how much you know, until they know how much you care”
Too often, we get so trapped in trying to respond with something clever to say, that we neglect to consider and relate to how another person is feeling
People are essentially emotional creatures, and the best way to connect with an individual, is to relate to how he/she feels.
So, instead of responding to what a person says, with what you know, it is probably more prudent to consider first how they are feeling and why they are saying what they are saying before responding.
Better still if you can draw upon a similar experience and relate to similar emotions.
I’ve personally experienced the benefit of having others open up and share more with me, simply by relating to and talking about how they feel. The amount of air time I had compared to the other party was low, but the level of connection the other party felt towards me couldn’t have been higher, and I credit to to actually listening to relate.
7. Forget About Whining (All the Time)
Nobody likes to feel lower than they are really feeling, especially if they’re already feeling pretty high.
So going to a party or gathering and dousing your negative emotions on an crowd is a huge no-no.
Sure, it’s fine if you gripe and rant a little, or update your friends on how you’re coping with the lows in your life
Yet, it’s our personal responsibility to manage our emotions and learn when it is to stop.
So if you must blow off some steam, learn to turn off the tap and redirect attention and conversation to a happier subject for discussion.
People like and are drawn to other well-balanced and mature individuals.
8. Forget about Keeping Score. . .
Keeping track of how much you’ve done for a person, or how much they owe you is not going to help you become more likable. Far from it.
Nobody likes a calculative nut, who goes the distance to make sure everything between you and him is accounted for.
No, a relationship is not an audit, it’s not a test and it doesn’t require a score.
There’ll be times when you’ll pick up the tab, and there’ll be times when they do.
Reciprocity is like a hug and a handshake – it requires both parties to reach out to each other and a deeper connection is made.
The only time you see a scoreboard is during a competition and I can assure you that both camps aren’t the best of friends when the scores are being taken.
9. Forget about being a Perfectionist
So often, we try so hard at trying to be perfect, and expecting things to be perfect that we forget that to err is human.
That’s not to say that we allow should ourselves to be slipshod, especially at our work. Far from it.
Rather, this is a reminder that, whilst we hold ourselves to highest of standards, we should cut ourselves and others some slack when mistakes are made.
Freeing ourselves up from being a perfectionist allows our moods and minds to relax and better appreciate spontaneity. We move away from facts and numbers, and more towards people and emotions – and hence connect better.
Nobody appreciates being around high-strung people.
10. Forget about Bonding Over Your Phone
Texts, Email, Apps and Games. . . technology has helped bring people together, yet it has also separated so many of us at the same time.
There are so many distractions placed in the power of our hands these days that good, old-fashioned conversations have begun to fade away.
Therein lies the paradox of communication and relationships; the more we try to express ourselves with the help of technology, the harder it is for us to build deeper and meaningful connections.
Relationship experts like Gary Chapman and Brene Brown share that healthy relationships require time to build, and that time (and patience) is needed for people to explore and learn more about each other – a concept I term as “building depth.”
It is my assertion that distractions, such as those from our mobile phones, promote our exploration of “breadth” in experience and less understanding in “depth” in relationships and personalities.
The good news here, however, is that a remedy is fairly simple: dedicate no-phone time during your interactions with people, and give them your full attention.
Leadership speaker, John C. Maxwell wrote that people want to know that they are “appreciated, understood and respected. . .” One cannot feel respected, appreciated and will feel far less understood if the person they’re speaking to prefers to hang out with a machine/device rather than them.
Likable people understand that, and choose to give a part of their lives – time – to people they are speaking to.
That’s a small gesture that makes a huge difference in the way you connect with people and how others perceive and receive you.
11. Forget about Passing Judgement
Forming opinions of people is a double-edged sword. Our ability to “read” people is a survival instinct which helps us identify quickly who are the people we “can” trust, and how are those we “can’t.”
I’ll be the first to raise my hand and confess that I’ve been guilty of this many times. It’s a job hazard.
Yet, recognizing that I’m prone to this, has helped me set aside my opinions of people, and have enabled me to explore and learn from and more about the people I speak to.
The ability to set aside opinions of people has helped me project a sincere curiosity in the different personalities, strengths and the unique stories behind each person.
Everybody has a unique story to tell. It is our responsibility to sieve out those stories, manage how we behave, and derive constructive lessons from it.
In the rare instances when you encounter an obnoxious brat however, it is perfectly fine to walk away.
Just be careful though, that if you find 9 out of 10 people to be dead boring or negative – the problem might probably lie with you!
12. Forget about Winning the Argument
Unless you’re taking part in a debating contest or your job actually involves trying to win an argument, it is perfectly fine NOT to win an argument an all the time.
Some would say that it’s that argument that makes life interesting, and that may be true.
However, it is also true that many people hate to be seen as “wrong”, or worse to feel that they are being “stonewalled” and “trapped” in a corner because all their arguments to escape have been sealed.
Likable people are capable of engaging others in a myriad of topics and explore various perspectives to a matter.
They are able to see the serious and funny side of different ideas, and aren’t afraid to explore perspectives that are different from their own.
That, is a form of adventure – and brings pleasure not to himself, but also to others.
So, when they converse or “argue” with others, it’s not so much about winning, but more of learning, exploring… and above all having fun.
Wouldn’t you agree? No? Sure, whatever you say; you win.
13. Forget about Trying to Get Something In Return
I know I promised that we’d be able to get what we want if we were likable.
Yet, the paradox to this is to actually expect something in return.
When it comes to being likable, people want to know that they are important.
We have all been primed to beware of the stranger who comes up to us and offer us candy when we were a child – we know that something’s not right, and we’ll have our defenses up.
To be nice to somebody just because you want something from them is a form of treason, because it suggests that you merely see the relationship with them as a transaction.
It’s superficial, it’s easy, and it’s cheap.
Likable people see relationships differently. They care genuinely for others, many times giving freely to others and expecting nothing in return.
That’s not to say that they enjoy being taken for granted, no.
Rather, they enjoy giving and blessing others with what they have, within their means, and come out all the richer for it.
I’ve learned, that when people like these do require help, they receive much more in return, not merely because they’ve asked for it, but because others feel genuinely inclined to reciprocate.
Through my research, work and experience, I’ve come to believe that building deep meaningful connections and relationships is probably one of the most sought after yet most underrated skills and abilities of our time.
That ability to be likable, not only helps us in our work, but also nourishes our relationships with people.
As an entrepreneur and educator who started his career at the age of 20, ten years ago, I’ve used some of these techniques to great effect. They have helped to accelerate my career and personal achievements – which is why I believe they too can work for you.
Now as we go about our work and life, I sincerely hope that they too work as well for you as they have for me over the last ten years.
It is my hope as well, that as you connect with more people and open more opportunities, that you too can hone, share and spread your gifts with those who need it.
At the end of the day, you don’t have to be likable to get ahead, but it certainly won’t hurt if you are.
Featured photo credit: atrapadoenunpueblo via flickr.com